A Friend, Indeed.

The New Year always gives me occasion to pause and reflect; to look back before charting the course forward in the upcoming year. Here’s this year’s big insight:

I don’t know what the question is, but the answer is relationships. Relationships forged in the workplace have brought me more success than I could have reasonably hoped for.

As a lowly publisher rep at the University of Buffalo, I hastily decided to seek fame and fortune in Chicago. My bosses, Kim Bollinger, Tom Russell, and Mark Litzsinger created a role for me there—a better role than I had before. Thank you for getting the ball rolling. You all opened so many doors.

I wanted to see if I could be a young Darrin Stephens and make a name for myself in Advertising. I started at a little agency in River North, Jordan-Tamraz-Caruso. There I met the hilarious and vivacious Rose Fauster. When Rose moved over to the legendary agency DDB, she put in the good word for me, and after eight interviews (not hyperbole) I joined her there. Thanks Rose!

At DDB I had the great fortune to work for Mike Sheehan. When Mike got the nod to return to Boston and Hill,Holliday as CEO and eventually Chairman, he brought me with him. So began my life in Boston. It is not overstating it to say I cannot thank Mike enough. Still I try!

After a great run at Hill,Holliday I decided to stretch my wings a bit and try life on the West Coast in Seattle with Publicis. When homesickness eventually prevailed, it was Hill,Holliday’s Karen Kaplan who made the board-level endorsement I needed to return to Boston as CMO of Tweeter. Thanks Kappy!

At this point I was now a “boss” as well as an employee. My first hire at Tweeter was the incredible Stefanie Geddis, whom I worked with at Hill,Holliday. Convincing someone of her stature to join the cause put tremendous wind in my sails. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Stef.

From Tweeter I went to Carat— a deal orchestrated by former Hill,Holliday HR exec Melissa Rose. I’ll always be thankful to Melrose for throwing a lifeline when the Tweeter ship was sunk.

At Carat I had the pleasure and luck to work with Kelly McSheffrey, the most organized and disciplined coworker I’ve ever been around. So when I joined startup Ando Media and sized up that we needed some order amidst the chaos, Kelly was the first call I made. She helped get Ando buttoned-up, off the ground, and on to much success. Thanks for doing what you do, Kelly.

When Ando was purchased by Triton, I needed help. Former client Ken Kimmel was comfortable enough to give me his first-born. Literally. That greenhorn kid right out of school is now all grown up and well into what will be a very successful career in her own right. Thanks for the trust, Ken.

So, I guess it goes without saying that the virtuous circle of relationships based on trust, respect, fun and affection has been “berry, berry good to me!” as ‘Chico Escuela’ might say.

Oh, yeah, I forgot one. My very first job out of school, the “Repo Man” for M&T Bank, netted me a wife, two kids, and a life. Thanks for the introduction to your sister, Kristin Cavalieri.

For those of you I didn’t mention by name, you know who you are.

So do I;)

Happy New Year! Let’s do great things together in 2015!

“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them!”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

So close, and yet…

If I said the name to you aloud you’d probably think, “nice Jewish boy.” In fact, Michal Friedman was a girl. And a Buddhist girl at that. Such are the pitfalls of nominal profiling.

Michal worked for us. That was a part of who she was. A very small part as it turns out. She was also an accomplished professional musician. Under the oh-so-appropriate moniker “Michal the Girl” she released multiple albums and reached a worldwide audience. Her sound is lush and moody– like a combination of Robbie Robertson and Fiona Apple. Very cool. Definitely check it out on iTunes, Rhapsody or what have you. Additionally, she did voice-over work. Amazing voice-overs in fact. I’d wager nobody else on the planet could pull off the seldom attempted “Speed Racer” cartoon VO and an ad VO of a teenager with tampon-angst on the same reel! That’s range, people.

These are but a few of her many accomplishments. The craziest thing about them? I just learned of them over the past couple of days. You see, despite the fact that Michal and I worked for the same company for years, I didn’t know her. Now, she was in our New York office and I’m in Boston, but I’ve been to that office dozens of times. There were opportunities. There is no doubt I’ve walked by her on multiple occasions.

And did not take notice. And did not see. And did not pick up on the fountain of talent right in my midst.

Too busy. Too focused. Too distracted by things that ultimately don’t mean shit to notice things that do.

And I’ll never get a chance to. Michal the Girl Friedman died last week while giving birth to picture-perfect twins. Though Michal was small in stature, she’s left a titanic-sized hole in the life of her husband Jay and her twins that will never know her.

That’s it and that’s all, folks.

So, do me a favor. Carve out some time to take the headphones off, put the mobile down, and clear your mind for a bit– almost like a Buddhist meditation you might say. Then try to take notice of things around you, people mainly, that are familiar but only on a superficial level. Learn more about people you ‘know’ but not really. Discover what’s right there beneath the surface if you only work at it a bit.

Start today. See what you’ve been missing.

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”– The Buddha

You can help by going to http://thesnydertwins.com/.